Seven Daze is now nearly finished. Just the last couple of read throughs and plot checks left. One thing I have noticed is, as it's set in parts of London, some of the area info could be more realistic (real places, pub and restaurant prices actual instead of guessed etc) I might have to work on that.
Here's what is nearly the final version of the first chapter.
The eyes didn’t belong to a killer.
Jim stared at them again. They were shifty and nervous. They were hiding something, but they weren’t killer’s eyes. Scratching his head, he looked away from the mirror.
Beside the bed, the clock stood sentinel on a cheap bedside table. Five fifty five. Just five minutes to go, but time seemed to have slowed down.
He walked to the clock and pressed a button on top, displaying the seconds. Thirty six, thirty seven, thirty eight. He knew digital clocks didn’t freeze or go slow. When they break the display blanks. Yet he had to check again. Just to be sure.
Jim knew he shouldn’t feel like this. He should be looking forward to the first day of his new job. It definitely shouldn’t have made him physically sick. After all, it’s supposed to be the chance to meet new people. The start of a new adventure.
Maybe that was the problem with contract killing. The only new people you met, you killed.
The display changed. Six fifty six.
Last night even the smallest detail had been prepared and double checked. There was so little to do now but wait. Since waking two hours ago, he’d watched the clock and daydreamed.
His stomach was in turmoil. Previously unknown muscles were twisting and spinning. He had to leave now. Despite timing every action and move many times, a little seed of doubt wondered if he’d messed up. It wasn’t just that. It was the hotel walls too. They seemed to be creeping in, pinning him down, just like the cell had for the past three years.
Avoiding his eyes as he walked past the mirror, Jim entered the bathroom. Carefully putting on gloves, he pulled the top off the toilet cistern. Ripping the polythene bag taped underneath, he shook it lightly. A few clinging drops of condensation fell to the carpet. Replacing the cistern lid, he returned to the bed and unzipped the polythene bag, his gloved fingers fumbling with the seal.
He’ d been overcautious with the gloves, as he had everything else. Originally he’d bought a pair then realised he may have left prints on their outside. Wearing them, he bought another, clean pair and kept them safe from all contamination and DNA until now.
Opening the bag, the cold steel pistol sparkled through its second waterproof wrapping. Picking at the heavily cellotaped polythene, he cursed as his gloved hands failed to rip it.
As his fingers and thumbs refused to work together, the walls closed in again. With it came the heat on his back and neck. His whole body was sweating, temperature rising. The tiny hotel room was just like the cell. Too much like it. It was a constant reminder. That was where this had started. That cell.
He’d been inside many times. The last stretch was never the last. Before prison, he’d done his apprenticeship in borstal and before that a secure children’s home. The holy trinity they called it, doing time in all three. Father, Son and Holy Ghost. All ages of man.
His home life had never been easy, not that that was an excuse. That was the domain of social workers and politicians, finding a reason. Truth was, he was bad. He knew it. A rotten apple. When others at school dreamt of careers and success, Jim and his mates wanted success, but they wanted it the easy way. Taking others success.
One little glimpse of ambition surfaced when he was twelve. Jim became fascinated by architecture and building plans. All those straight lines stretching out, building something from nothing. The careers advisor at school told him about architecture and quantity surveying. But the estate and flats didn’t breed architects, it bred villains and anarchists. The only quantities Jim ever surveyed were other peoples DVD’s, mobiles and video games. Once in the rut, he couldn’t have broken out if he’d wanted. His teens and twenties became a life of prison, breaking and entering, selling stolen goods and more prison.
A lucky break was needed to end the circle.
Picking at the tape he found a seam and peeled. The clock now two minutes to seven, he realised this was the only job he hadn’t practised. Typical. The most important part, the weapon, had been overlooked. He should have done this last night. Or half an hour ago. All that wasted time.
Cursing, he picked more polythene off. The worst of the tape gone, it peeled like a banana. The gun exposed, he checked the barrel and silencer: just as he’d wrapped them last week. Though the ammo clip was also wrapped, he made short work unravelling it. Snapping the clip home gave a satisfying click. Holding it in his nearly shaking hands, he looked in the mirror. For a moment he barely recognised the suited gun wielder staring back.
The suit, an off the shelf number but still the best part of four hundred pounds, made him unrecogniseable. It was only when he looked at his face, his eyes, that he saw himself. Those pale shifty eyes, looking uncomfortable. He still didn’t look like a killer. He looked at them again. It might be the last time he could bring himself to do it.
As lucky breaks go, Jim wasn’t sure if his was lucky or not. His cell mate for the past two years, Fingers Harry had changed his life. That wasn’t in doubt. Was it for the better though?
Despite his size and short-fused temper, Fingers Harry had become a friend. A close friend. Jim assumed Harry was missing his son who was destined to grow up fatherless during Harry’s twenty five stretch. Harry had a way of glamorising his life that Jim could listen to for hours. The tales of his blags and scrapes kept their spirits up during those lonely nights.
It was that cell and Fingers Harry that’d changed his life. Gave him his break.
One minute to seven. Jim slipped the safety catch on the gun and placed it on the bed. Picking up his new shoes, he squeezed them onto his feet, wincing as chunky toes hit the sides. Finding shoes wide enough had always been a problem. Even expensive ones gave no more room. This pair seemed okay in the shop, but now felt two sizes smaller. He put it down to pressure causing his feet to swell and reached for his coat.
Slipping it on, he again felt sticky and hot. A thick bulky coat on a summer’s day only made it worse, especially with a suit jacket and tie on underneath. However he needed the bulk. He needed to hide something inside the bulk. Picking the gun off the bed, he checked the safety was still on before slipping it into his inside pocket. Fastening the coat, he walked to the mirror and looked hard at his body.
Did it show? Was there a small outline, a bulge just above his stomach?
He closed his eyes, telling himself he’d been through this before. The gun couldn’t be seen through the coat. His brain was playing tricks, making him think he’d missed something.
He told himself again, no one will notice the gun.
Throughout the stretch, Fingers Harry hadn’t been happy. One of Harry’s relatives, Porky Rob, had gone down because of a witness. This plucky member of the public had refused to be scared, intimidated or bought off. This, according to Harry, was a very poor showing. After all what would happen if everyone started witnessing crimes and all the criminals were locked up? Anarchy that’s what it would be. Of course, Harry thought he was doing society a service. “Think of all them coppers, briefs and security guards who’d be unemployed if they locked us all up,” he’d say, “what I’m doing, is helping society to help itself.”
During the lonely nights, it was clear Harry wanted just one thing: the witnesses head. “Bring me the head of Gregory Pectin,” he’d say. A contract went out and when some lag took the job, Jim was gobsmacked by the amount of money involved. Ten grand. Ten big ones for a few minutes work. Sure, it involved killing, but from what Jim had heard, it was no great loss. The witness would have drunk himself to death soon anyway. Rumours abounded he hadn’t actually witnessed anything; the rozzers had paid him to lie.
Contract killing just seemed so easy.
The clock flicked over to seven. Jim checked his pocket for the keys and money he’d placed there last night. Still there. He pulled out the keys to check it was still the hotel key and had not morphed into some other key overnight. Still the hotel key. Still there.
One last look in the mirror, but not at his eyes, and he was ready.
“Gun, keys, money, phone.”
He looked at the cabinet crammed between the bed and wall. Sat atop it, next to a few brochures for museums he’d never visit was the cheap pay as you go mobile he’d bought two days ago. Lying on the bed, he reached over and grabbed it. Aware he was lying on top of the gun, he slowly eased off and raised himself by his arms.
Reaching into the pocket, he pulled the gun out. The safety was still on.
Sighing, he stood up, re-pocketed the gun and grabbed the mobile. Placing the phone in his trouser pocket, he walked to the door and stopped.
“Gun, keys, money, phone,” he said again.
Two deep breaths later, he opened the door.